BOSTON -- Bob Feller took more pride in serving his country than for anything he accomplished on a baseball diamond. On this Memorial Day weekend, the legend's service will be remembered with the first Bob Feller Act of Valor Award.
In a joint announcement, the Indians and the United States Navy officially unveiled the award on Friday. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the USS Alabama Battleship Commission have also expressed support for the honor.
"As we celebrate with our friends and family this Memorial Day," Peter Fertig, president of the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation, said in a release, "we need to take a moment and honor those who have served our country. It is through their hard work and dedication to this great country that we have our freedom. We must not forget those who have protected that right."
Each year, the Act of Valor Award will be given to one Major League Baseball player, one Navy chief petty officer and one Baseball Hall of Famer. Finalists for the award will be announced during a ceremony during the Independence Day holiday at Progressive Field in Cleveland, and the winners will be presented with their award in a Veterans Day ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Feller enlisted in the Navy at 23 years old after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He served aboard the USS Alabama and saw combat in the Pacific Theater, in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Feller rose to the rank of chief petty officer before being discharged in August 1945. He missed nearly four baseball seasons by enlisting.
In 1962, Feller was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, becoming the only U.S. Navy chief petty officer in the Hall.
"Bob Feller remains an American icon, for his contributions on the field as well as his commitment to his country," said Brad Horn, senior director of communications and education for the Hall of Fame. "He remains an inspirational lesson in museum education for fans of all generations to learn how his commitment to country benefitted so many, while sacrificing years of his prime baseball career."